According to Aristotle and his Nicomachean Ethics, what are the virtues and vices associated with "feelings about feelings?"

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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Aristotle is  renowned for various works including his Nicomachean Ethics. In studying the basis of what makes a person strive towards his or her goals, Aristotle maintains that performing "good" or rational acts, being those which lead to the achievement of goals, is what drives people towards developing a moral strength or integrity. A person needs to understand his or her place in the world and, as people exclusively possess the capacity to reason, a person is able to make ethical choices.

The abstract nature of emotions and feelings may lead to various interpretations but Aristotle's works are very focused on contextual circumstances and happiness is the main aim of mankind as all other activities are ultimately performed in the pursuit of happiness, or to use a less subjective term, “excellence.” 

In discussing "feelings about feelings," there are always two extremes which can be moderated according to appropriate action and circumstances. Aristotle's ethics are intended to be applied contextually, according to any particular situation. Reactions may be too extreme (the vice) or too limited in scope (the vice) to be rational choices and so a middle ground - the virtue- must be found. In discussing virtues, the vices are usually considered to be the extremes which result in outrageous behavior whereas inaction is also a consequence of inappropriate behavior and so is also a vice. 

If a person is fearful, developing appropriate courage would reflect his virtue. Being unable to overcome fear renders him a coward (vice) and/ or over-reacting to his situation, causes him to behave rashly or over-confidently. (vice)  

In ensuring the right amount of pleasure, a virtuous person will act with a measure of temperance whereas self-indulgence would reflect too much pleasure and therefore be a vice and insensibility reveals too little and so too is a vice.  

Patience, the virtue, allows an angry person to avoid either of the two extremes; i.e.,  making irascible choices (vice) or revealing a complete lack of passion (vice).

Self-expression should result in truthfulness (the virtue), but poor self-expression may cause boastfulness or, at the other end of the scale, false modesty.  

A character trait which reveals appropriate modesty (the virtue), in instances where shame is the contributing factor, results in shyness or shamelessness at the two extremes.

 In establishing the truth behind whether bad things happen to "bad" people (relatively-speaking), and good things to "good" people, Aristotle refers to "nemesis," righteous indignation such as it exists between envy and spitefulness. 

Aristotle gives advice and cautions people to be virtuous and good according to what is appropriate in the circumstances under consideration.

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